Greetings! As the 2013 NFL season approaches, it is time to take a deeper look at what to expect from the Atlanta Falcons. In the eighth of a nine-part preview (we’re almost there), we are set to evaluate the leading position of any football team with the quarterbacks. Let’s get it going.
The one, the only, Matt Ryan.
For starters, let’s a look at where he ranked among qualified quarterbacks last year. Ryan tied for the league lead (with Peyton Manning) in completion percentage at 68.6%, finished 5th in passing yards at 4,719, was 7th in yards per attempt at 7.67, finished 5th in QB rating at 99.1, and finally, finished 4th in ESPN’s “Total QBR”, trailing only Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and the abbreviated season of Colin Kaepernick at 74.5.
With all of that said, why isn’t Matt Ryan considered an elite NFL quarterback?!
For me, he is clearly a part of that group, and he was paid as such in the off-season with a massive, $100+ million extension. He is already the best quarterback in franchise history (seems crazy in year #6, but still), and on the list of “quarterbacks of the future”, he may rank even higher based on his age (28) compared to some of the established greats like Manning and Brady.
He’s also blessed with one of the best trios of weapons in all of football with White, Jones, and Gonzalez, and now, he has a reliable, versatile running game that features a 3-down pass catching option for the first time in his career. The only outstanding question is whether 2012’s production created a whole new level for Ryan where he is going to consistently go for 4,500+ yards and 30+ touchdowns, but even if 2012 is his apex, he’s a top-10 quarterback with no debate, and for me, lands in the top 6 or 7.
Needless to say, this isn’t a position of worry.
Now, if Matt Ryan gets injured for any length of time… that may be an issue. Dominique Davis looks to have the undisputed reins as the backup quarterback and that’s worrisome. In fact, he’s currently the only other QB on the roster, and after the injury to Sean Renfree, there’s no competition. Davis has never appeared in an NFL game, and while he is lauded for his athleticism, it is a bit of a misnomer to believe that he’d be a dual threat quarterback, as he never rushed for even 200 yards in a college season at East Carolina.
In the preseason, Davis completed only 52.6% of his passes (41 for 78) and had more interceptions (3) than touchdown passes (2). Obviously, that comes with the danger of small sample sizes, but he wasn’t much better in the 2012 preseason with a sub-60% completion rate, 3 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. Davis would likely be a bottom-10 quarterback (to be nice) in the league if he was handed the job, and it’s time to start praying for Matt Ryan’s health.
As you could likely tell from my praises of Matt Ryan, I am more than comfortable with this position group. Ryan is an elite quarterback in virtually every way, and concerns about his potential were silenced by 2012’s production. The only issue is what remains if he were to be injured, but the bright side is that Ryan has missed only 2 games during his 5-year career. Quarterback is certainly in the positive column, and it ranks with the pass catchers as the best/safest position group.
Stay tuned for the final installment, when we make some predictions about the team for 2013.